University of Waikato secures more than $6m in MBIE research funding

17 September 2019

Armon Tamatea
Dr Armon Tamatea has secured more than $3 million in funding to continue work on reducing violence in prisons.

The University of Waikato has received more than $6 million in research funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The University was informed of their successful research bids following an announcement by Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Dr Megan Woods.

Funding was given to the University for four key projects, ranging from research on improving violence in prisons to evaluating earthquake risk.

Waikato University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Bruce Clarkson, says the amount of funding secured is a demonstration of the research calibre at the University.

“It is encouraging to see our researchers being recognised for their innovative work and the impact they make in their respective fields,” says Professor Clarkson.

“This research announcement further validates the quality of research output at this University, which feeds into our overall commitment to providing solutions to topical challenges, and contributing to the wider economy.”

The most significant research funding was awarded to Dr Armon Tamatea, who received $3.9 million in funding to continue work on reducing violence in prisons.

He is leading the project along with Waikato University’s Professor Devon Polaschek and Dr Lars Brabyn.

Dr Tamatea has a background in clinical psychology and served as a clinician and senior research advisor for the Department of Corrections (New Zealand) before being appointed senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Waikato.

He has worked extensively in the assessment and treatment of violent and sexual offenders, and contributed to the design and implementation of an experimental prison-based violence prevention programme for high-risk offenders diagnosed with psychopathy.

The University of Waikato funding

$3,916,045 – 5 years – Turning the tide on prison violence – Dr Armon Tamatea, Professor Devon Polaschek and Dr Lars Brabyn.

$1,000,000 – 3 years – User-friendly deep learning – Professor Geoffrey Holmes, Professor Eibe Frank, Professor Mark Apperley, Dr Te Taka Keegan, Peter Reutemann and Dale Fletcher.

$1,000,000 – 3 years – Evaluating earthquake risk using liquefied volcanic-ash layers in lakes – Professor David Lowe and Dr Vicki Moon.

$1,000,000 – 3 years – A new method for measurements of muddy suspended sediments in aquatic environments – Dr Julia Mullarney and Dr Iain MacDonald (NIWA).

Turning the tide on prison violence
This project will further the Endeavour Fund Investment Plan’s priorities to develop innovative approaches to deliver better, more effective, public services with better life outcomes for vulnerable individuals in custody. The aim is to reduce violence and aggression in prison settings.

To achieve that, the overarching science questions for this proposal are: what factors contribute to prison violence? Can we predict these behaviours/events? What is the relationship between gang-affiliation and prison violence? What resources do men from these communities possess that can mitigate future violence? What are the properties of the prison environment itself that influence or inhibit violence? How can ecological models of prison inform improved safety and wellbeing, and even participation in rehabilitation practices?

User-friendly deep learning
This research will facilitate adoption of state-of-the-art machine learning technology by providing user friendly tools to enable deployment of deep learning techniques in practical applications. Existing deep learning frameworks require substantial technical expertise, which creates an insurmountable barrier to entry for practitioners who cannot afford the opportunity cost of familiarising themselves with the technical intricacies involved.

By providing intelligent support for annotation, along with the integration of techniques for exploiting unlabelled data, this research will relieve the data annotation bottleneck.

Evaluating earthquake risk using liquefied volcanic-ash layers in lakes
Newly-discovered, multiple hidden faults in Hamilton pose a potential seismic risk. The objective is to develop and apply a new tool to unravel past seismic activity in the area over the last 20,000 years based on novel approaches, including CT scanning of liquefied volcanic-ash (tephra) layers preserved in lake sediment cores. Research findings will help to address a very large gap in knowledge regarding the currently unknown late Quaternary paleo seismic history of the Hamilton Basin.

A new method for measurements of muddy suspended sediments in aquatic environments
This work will provide new tools to monitor sediment flow, which is explicitly specified as a basic knowledge need in the Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap for New Zealand. This research will take advantage of recent advancements in technology to allow the team to conduct novel laboratory experiments of a well-constrained model system. The results will provide a step change in theoretical understanding, and also allow for improved capability in numerical modelling of sediment transport.

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